Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao is a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, primary author of House Bill No. 2719 – Genetically-Modified (GM) Free – Agriculture, HB 1043 – Amendments to the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, House Resolution No. 1294 – Calling for a Congressional Inquiry on the impact of Golden Rice to Health, Environment and Farmers’ Rights, and HB 5403 – Repealing Presidential Decree No. 1620 – Immunity of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
To the participants of the 2nd Round of Inter-agency and Multistakeholder’s Public Dialogue on the Golden Rice, I send my greetings by calling for, “uphold farmers’ rights to land, oppose Golden Rice in the Philippines!”
While the introduction of Golden Rice in the Philippines is actually on a table of contradiction: one side from its proponents, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partner foreign agro-chem monopolies and foundations, the PhilRice and other government agencies, and on the opposing side, the farmers, non-government organizations, consumer groups and other people’s organizations; the question that usually floats up after “what is Golden Rice?” is “why the need for it?” While the scientific community banners opposing side, the people as a whole only needs to assert one thing, is it beneficial or detrimental. We in Anakpawis, concur with the people’s movement’s opinion that it is the latter.
Based on the PhilRice website, on the part of “Why do we need Golden Rice?” states that is a potential source of vitamin A and its deficiency leads to infections and diseases, blindness or even death. It cites it “offers a great opportunity to be a very source of vitamin A.” Moreover, rice is a staple food in the country, and about 2.1 million children suffers from deficiency. Then, it “could be a sustainable and cost-effective way to help those still affected by vitamin A deficiency.”
Obviously, the rationale is alien to the current conditions of Philippine society, more so, of history. Anakpawis stands with that poverty, hunger, and other social quandaries are only symptoms of fundamental concerns in the socio-economic structure, and with malnutrition as a mere by-product, disjointedly addressing it with vitamin A rice is an insult and denial. In the present political and economic system, even vitamin A to Zinc rice will not resolve malnutrition.
Promotion of Golden Rice is an instrument of denial. It denies the fact that the Filipino poor are engrossed to poverty and hunger, because of landlessness, low wages, joblessness and even homelessness. It boasts of resolving malnutrition sans fulfillment of basic and core needs of the Filipino poor.
Even with Golden Rice, if tens of millions of Filipino farmers remain landless, workers remain contractual and suffering low wages, and living in makeshift houses, we are certain malnutrition will not be wiped out.
If superimposed on the current conditions, Golden Rice will appear as an insult. According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Philippine Peasant Movement, more than 110 farmers fell victims to extra-judicial killings under the Duterte regime. These cases are political killings, as the victims are usually activists struggling for Genuine Agrarian Reform in the country. They want to cultivate lands by defending their rights to land, but they were subjected to state repression. Recently, on a classic case of red-baiting, the “bungkalan” farms or “land cultivation areas” of farmers in Negros were accused by the military to fund activities of the New People’s Army. Farmers who are fighting against landlessness, to be offered by Golden Rice is obviously rudeness of a higher level.
Recently, President Duterte acted as a “surrenderee” to the capitalists, oligarchs and foreign monopoly on the issue of ending contractualization of labor and claimed “powerlessness” of ending it. Thus, he condemned millions of Filipino contractual workers to “regular” joblessness, low wages, and offering them Golden Rice, so as to solve their vitamin A deficiency, shall appear probably the most foolish act of the year. Same with the case of urban poor families, whose homes were demolished, thus, they are constrained to leave their sources of livelihood or jobs.
The lumad communities in Mindanao, who, amid government neglect, persevered to set-up their own agricultural schools, thus, promoting sustainable agriculture in their communities. But they are now subjected to massive and systematic militarization, even aerial bombings. They who have asserted their rights to freedom to produce their own food have been assaulted by the state. The introduction of Golden Rice, again, in light to solve malnutrition, is out-of-place and out-of-context.
Early this year, the National Food Authority cried wolf of rice “shortage” when it simply means it failed its mandate to secure the rice requirements of the country, as it preferred importing than local procurement. Since the country’s entry to the World Trade Organization, Filipino farmers have been bankrupt and more are threatened to be, and asserting to continue their cultivation of rice, amid possible displacement from their lands, they are now being offered with Golden Rice, a commodity product to be purchased from foreign monopoly agro-chem giants.
Lastly, late last year, the Duterte government enacted the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN law, which is now wreaking havoc on household incomes, as poor families are now facing inflationary price shocks, obviously, slashing more from their budget for food. Again, Golden Rice attempts to stand as answer to malnutrition.
I could manifest infinitely on the context that introduction of Golden Rice in the country is inapt. Instead, I dare the Duterte government, the government agencies and other sectors, to realize Genuine Agrarian Reform in the country, and see actually how it will resolve malnutrition, hunger and poverty. I dare protection to farmers’ rights to land, freedom to the system on how people produce food, and freedom from foreign intrusion. Instead of Golden Rice, I call for a golden era for farmers’ rights to land.
Thank you very much.
REP. ARIEL “KA AYIK” B. CASILAO